Grains Research and Development

Date: 05.05.2014

The science of soil biology rolled out on tour

Author: Melissa Williams

Sharing scientific knowledge and on-farm experiences was the aim of a recent GRDC Soil Biology Initiative II (SBI-II) tour through Western Australia’s grainbelt. 

SBI-II researchers from across Australia met more than 60 WA growers and advisers from Geraldton to Ravensthorpe to gain insights into the factors driving on-farm soil biology decisions and how soil biology fits into a whole-farm context. 

Local growers were able to glean the latest information about the GRDC’s soil biology investments and research results as part of this 2000-kilometre round trip. 

Associate Professor Pauline Mele, of the SBI-II and the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries, says collaboration between scientists and growers is vital to exchange ideas, observations and concerns about soil biology.

“Hot topics arising during the tour included: non-wetting soils and the role of soil biota in improvements; carbon storage and loss; and the impacts of pesticides and fertilisers on the resilience of soils,” she says.

“Practices such as spading, mouldboard ploughing and growing summer crops were also discussed in terms of the potential impacts on soil biota.

“A clear outcome from the tour was that on-farm systems research, guided by regional questions, is a formula worth considering for future investments.”

The main investment streams of the SBI-II are: monitoring soils using a web-based tool (www.soilquality.org.au); the potential to manipulate nutrient release from different soil fractions based on break crops; and plant residue quality and the potential to build disease-suppressive soils.

A group of people standing in front of a sign

(From left) The GRDC Regional Cropping Solutions Network’s Sally Thompson, Dr Martin Blumenthal, Associate Professor Annie McNeill, Dr Helen Hayden, Dr Graham Stirling, Dr Shahajahan Miyan, Associate Professor Pauline Mele and Professor Daniel Murphy on a recent Soil Biology Initiative II tour of Western Australia.

PHOTO: Sally Thompson

More information:

Associate Professor Pauline Mele
03 9032 7083
pauline.mele@depi.vic.gov.au

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GRDC Project Code UWA00138, UWA00130, UWA00139, UWA00150, DAV00102, DAV00105, CSP00138, UA00119, DAQ00164, CSP00135, DAS00111

Region South, West